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Prince Harry withdraws libel claim against publisher of Mail on Sunday

The Duke of Sussex has withdrawn his libel claim against Associated Newspapers, the publisher of The Mail on Sunday.

Prince Harry sued Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over a February 2022 article about his legal challenge to the Home Office following a decision to change his publicly funded security arrangements when visiting the UK.

The story claimed Harry, 39, “tried to keep details of his legal battle to reinstate his police protection secret from the public”.

The duke’s lawyers claimed it “purported to reveal, in sensational terms” that information from court documents “contradicted public statements he had previously made about his willingness to pay for police protection for himself and his family whilst in the UK”.

ANL contested the claim, arguing that the article expressed an honest opinion and did not cause serious harm to his reputation.

The duke now reportedly faces having to pay the newspaper’s costs of £250,000 along with £500,000 of his own legal fees (Reuters)
The duke now reportedly faces having to pay the newspaper’s costs of £250,000 along with £500,000 of his own legal fees (Reuters)

The civil claim had been heading towards an estimated three-day trial scheduled to be held between 17 May and 31 July this year. But Harry has admitted defeat, abandoning his case just hours before a deadline for his lawyers to pass over a list of relevant documents.

The duke now faces having to pay the newspaper’s costs of £250,000 along with £500,000 of his own legal fees, meaning a total bill of more than £750,000, the Mail said.

In a ruling last month, Harry lost a bid to have ANL’s “honest opinion” defence thrown out by a judge and was ordered to pay £48,447 towards the publisher’s legal bills.

High Court judge Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that ANL could proceed with the honest opinion defence. He said if the case went to trial, the newspaper “may well submit that this was a masterclass in the art of spinning” which was “successful in misleading and/or confusing the public”.

A spokesperson for the publisher confirmed that Harry had withdrawn his case.

Harry is still awaiting a ruling from a different judge in his separate claim against the Home Office over a decision to change the degree of his personal protection.

He is challenging the decision by the Royal and VIP Executive Committee (Ravec) not to grant him automatic police protection in the UK since stepping down as a senior member of the British royal family and moving to California with his family.

In written submissions, Harry’s lawyer Justin Rushbrooke KC had argued that the newspaper’s defence should be thrown out because it rested on “two provably false premises” relating to a press statement released by Harry when he made the legal challenge.

His statement read: “The duke first offered to pay personally for UK police protection for himself and his family in January of 2020 at Sandringham.

“That offer was dismissed. He remains willing to cover the cost of security, as not to impose on the British taxpayer.”

However, Ravec said his offer of private funding “notably was not advanced” to the department.

The Mail described this as “a crushing rebuttal to Harry’s initial public statement that implied he had always been willing to foot the bill” while adding that the press statement issued on behalf of the duke confused the media and misinformed the public.

A spokesperson for the Sussexes said the duke was focusing on the safety of his family and his legal case against the Home Office.

“As is the nature with legal proceedings, years have lapsed since this complaint was first filed,” the spokesperson said. “In the time since, the main hearing relating to the duke’s judicial review has taken place and we are awaiting the final decision as to whether Ravec acted lawfully with regard to his security.

“His focus remains there, and on the safety of his family, rather than these legal proceedings that give a continued platform to the Mail’s false claims all those years ago.”

The news came on the day it was reported Harry may not have learnt of King Charles’s health condition before it went public. Buckingham Palace revealed earlier this week that the King would be admitted to hospital next week for treatment for an enlarged prostate.